Active shooter training evolves at Fox Valley Technical College

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – Future responders are learning new tactics to try to help victims faster during active shooter situations.

On Friday, Fox Valley Technical College held a simulation on a scale they’ve never tried before to prepare their students for those worst case scenarios.

The simulation was a bank robbery. In it, a suspect ran away with a gun in his hand and took hostages inside a nearby building. Students responded to the bank, picked up on the gunman’s trail, and approached the buildings with guns drawn.

Inside, people who played victims lay in the hallways. Police advanced into a room for a report of an officer down. They opened fire using blank bullets and shot the suspect.

“Just learning how to work under stress will be the big thing,” said one public safety student.

“I like how they’re doing this and I know a lot of departments are working towards getting themselves better,” another student said.

The real test was not only taking out the shooter, but also how quickly medical personnel can reach victims. In past years, paramedics couldn’t help victims until SWAT cleared the scene. Time doesn’t allow for that today, and training has evolved to keep up.

“Today we’re beginning to train with EMT’s and paramedics to come in with us,” said Joe LeFevre, Fox Valley Technical College chairman of the forensics department. “We have these rapid response teams where maybe two officers and a paramedic will go in, and the officers will sandwich the paramedic.”

The motto is to prepare for the worst, and the simulation was a good lesson.

At one point, communications broke down. Students learned to improvise so that when they face a real-life situation, they’re ready.

“We have to worry about an armed gunman, other people, there’s a fire going on, there’s a lot of chaos, and it’s really easy to get caught in that tunnel vision,” said FVTC paramedic student Antonio Gibilian.

“We went in there, and your instincts just kind of took over, and you did the job, and we got out very quick,” said FVTC criminal justice student Nathan Birkholz.

Hundreds of students and staff trained together so that the scale added a bit of reality to the lessons learned.